How to Prepare Your Chicken Coop For Winter

Are you worried about how best to prepare your chicken coop for winter? We shall highlight and elaborate on the key components of the winter chicken coop design that you need to consider to keep your ladies happy, stress-free, and productive!

To protect your chicken from harsh winter conditions, it’s recommended that you consider the following tips in your coop design

  1. Construct your chicken coop facing a sunny area
  2. Focus on reducing Draft & Moisture
  3. Design your chicken coop to trap sunlight heat
  4. Provide for adequate ventilation. LOTS of ventilation.
  5. Allow for humidity control
  6. Construct a Sun-room extension if you can
  7. Adopt Deep Litter System
  8. Provide artificial lights ( for hens to continue laying eggs)
  9. Provide enough space for your chickens to roost
  10. Provide for drinking water and insulated nesting boxes
  11. Have a Dust Bathtub for your chickens to clean up!

Chickens come in different breeds. There are cold-hardy chicken breeds that can survive in chilly winter conditions. Generally, chickens are tolerant of extremely cold temperatures. They can do well in low temperatures of minus teens (degrees Fahrenheit)!

As pointed out by some experts, it’s when the temperature inside the coop starts falling to -(minus_ 20 degrees Fahrenheit that your birds will start suffering.  

chicken | winter chicken coop

Chickens generally have a way of trapping air with their feathers to keep warm. However, if winter temperature inside your chickens’ coop reads 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Fahrenheit outside, your birds will no longer be able to regulate or maintain their normal body temperature which is about 105-107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember, if your coops temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it does not mean that your chicken’s body temperature will be the same! It will simply drop from the normal range. Your chickens will eat and behave normally!

Heat Lamp In Your Chicken Coop Design? Think Again…

winter chicken coop design

As mentioned earlier, from 70 degrees Fahrenheit inside the coop, your chicken’s body temperatures will no longer be regulated to the normal body level (105-107 degrees Fahrenheit). It will have just started dropping slowly by slowly as the surrounding temperature keeps dropping.

Your chickens will only die if their own body temperature hits 73 degrees Fahrenheit. That is if the temperature inside your chicken coop hits -20 degrees Fahrenheit which is incredibly cold. Now, if your winter gets that incredibly cold, then think of providing some heat for your chickens. 

Chicken don’t feel the coldness as humans do. Ever imagine feeling so cold that you crave for a heater? To a chicken, that’s a big joke! If it gets as low as 8 degrees Fahrenheit, your chickens will still be happy outdoor!

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Well, when you strongly feel that winter condition requires you to provide for a heater in your chicken coop; consider a safe source of heat.

A heat lamp inside a chicken coop is hazardous. You can go for a flat panel radiant heater.  It will raise your chicken coop temperature by a few degrees. Sadly, it “teaches” your chicken to be less tolerant of cold which isn’t encouraging.

Winter Chicken Coop Design-What To Consider

Winter Coop # 1- Coop Facing Sunlight

As winter approaches, your approach to chicken coop direction must change big time!  All the openings such as the door, ventilation holes, and windows should face areas that are known to rejoice from winter’s rare sun’s blessings!  The back wall structure should be sturdy enough to wrestle back the offensive winter winds!

With this consideration, your chicken coop will absorb and keep the available sunlight gift (heat) while keeping opposing winds away from your ladies’ winter paradise.

Winter Coop # 2- Reducing Drafts & Moisture

When cold wind “illegally” gets into your chicken coop, it will steal all its heat and moisture, and leave behind chilly waves!

The chickens’ insulation mechanisms of trapping air in their feathers will be disrupted. The draft, therefore, will be robbing them of their cold-fighting secret weapons. Your ladies will not forgive you for putting their lives at risk!

They’ll be victims of nasty frostbite. Their wattles and legs will suffer the most as they’re most exposed. That’s why your winter chicken coop design shouldn’t have air leaks or holes to allow cold air in.

 If the walls are made of timber, there should be no gaps through which wild winter winds can pass through. If you have got an old chicken coop, make sure all the necessary repairs are done in time and effectively before the winter season.

Winter Coop # 3- Consider Design Materials That Trap Sunlight Heat

Winter may be cold but the sun will still “have its say” even if briefly. If your winter coop is made of more thermal mass materials, the more it will release heat after the sun goes to sleep!

Thermal mass materials are those that absorb heat and release it afterward when there is no other heat source. Insulated walls, windows, deep litter, stonewall, concrete, and compost floor are good thermal mass materials to consider for your winter chicken coop.

Winter Coop # 4-Adequate ventilation

Adequate ventilation in your chicken coop especially in winter is VERY IMPORTANT. Actually, ventilation is the MOST IMPORTANT chicken coop consideration.

Always check your chicken coop roof or walls for any signs of water droplets due to condensation. That should be a sign that you’ve got loose ventilation nuts to tighten!

Importance of Ventilation:

  • Reduces moisture level or humidity keeping your chickens safe from frostbites and respiratory diseases
  • Removes accumulated ammonia gas from inside the coop
  • Helps remove excess heat thereby regulating your coop’s temperature accordingly

Winter can be a season of extremely low temperatures. When you have to design a chicken coop with adequate ventilation, it surely cannot be standard ventilation! It must be grand ventilation!

Since your chickens will be spending most of their time in the chicken coop during winter, there will be a massive buildup of ammonia gas, moisture, and heat.  30% of your chicken excrete will be ammonia gas. When it gets into contact with moisture, it forms ammonium which is a corrosive solution.

Finally, chickens increase humidity (moisture in the air) through their droppings as well as through respiration.  You’ll, therefore, need an “enhanced” ventilation system in your chicken coop to keep your ladies safe.

Suitable Place for Ventilation Openings

In choosing ventilation vent locations, consider areas close to your chicken coop roof where cold air cannot flow directly to hit your winter ladies! This will ensure that warm air including ammonia,  will easily get out through the vents to be replaced by dry and cooler external air.

The upper part of the door will be the most appropriate.  This, however, depends on its structural design.

Ventilation types to Consider for your Winter Chicken Coop

1). Natural Ventilation:

This is also called passive ventilation and constitutes openings that allow for natural airflow. The flow can be facilitated by wind or due to the tendency of warm air rising up. It’s the cheapest and safest way to ventilate your winter chicken coop

 In your readiness for winter, consider having windows, ventilation slots or louvered vents to remove gases while allowing fresh air to come in. Please note that for winter conditions, you’ll need a lot of ventilation.

2). Wind Turbine assisted ventilation

If your current chicken coop’s location doesn’t allow for adequate natural airflow, consider getting and mounting wind turbines.

It’s important to select the ones that suit your coop wall ventilation cuttings of about 29 inches in circumferences. In other words, holes in which basketballs can fit in! As the winds blow, the turbines will help in expelling gases out your chicken coop.

This, however, works best when your location has lots of blowing winds. Otherwise, excess gases or heat will only be pumped out when the wind is blowing. This is its main disadvantage.

It’s important that you drill the holes in the right place. If you’ve to choose your chicken roof, ensure that the design doesn’t allow for water, wind or snow into your coop.

3). Mechanical Ventilation

You may consider a more Active ventilation system that depends on electricity from either your mainline or solar-driven units. This will not require that you drill very large holes as you would for natural ventilation.

The disadvantage of solar fans is that their power depends entirely on sunlight. You may need to consider having solar backup batteries to support your ventilation system at night.

Your challenge will be in getting suitable fans that can operate effectively in different conditions. For instance, there are fans designed for dusty and harsh outdoor environments while others are not.

 Consult experts in fans in order to consider only the most suitable fan for your coop. For the fans to serve you better and longer, they’ll need routine maintenance. Proper fitting is also key.

The Size of Ventilation Holes or Vents in Your Winter Coop

When you think of providing adequate ventilation for your winter coop, you must think big… literally! 🙂

The amount of ammonia, heat, and moisture your ladies will be producing both day and night is massive. That’s why your coop will need abnormally large ventilations. How large? You may ask.

Each of your chicken will need a ventilation opening of at least 1 square ft (929.03 square cm). This is suitable for an area of 10 square feet (0.963 square m). If you have several chickens and winter is approaching, you’ll have to drill several large holes on your walls or coop door.

All your chicken coop ventilation vents should have secure screens to deter predators. Structures used should be sturdy and not easily ripped off my hungry and determined predators.

Ensure that your ventilation vents have covers or flaps that allow for partial and complete closing depending on weather conditions.

Winter Coop # 5- Providing for Artificial Lights to Facilitate Eggs Production

If your chickens will be producing eggs during winter, they’ll need light for a duration of 14-15 hours each day. Since they’ll not be exposed to adequate sunlight during winter, consider providing artificial light in your chicken coop.

A suitable option is a simple and compact florescent 9 Watts rated bulb linked to a timer.

To ensure that light is spread evenly within the scoop, make a provision for the light’s hanging place at the center of your chicken coop.

Winter Chicken Coop # 6- The Design to Allow For Humidity Control

During winter, you’ll be holding three juggle balls: ventilation, heat, and humidity. If your chickens are laying eggs, you definitely don’t want your eggs or their drinking water to be frozen.

Because your birds will be staying in the coop for the most part of the day during winter, a lot of moisture will continue to build up. This is through breathing as well as pooping. The optimum level of coop humidity is between 60% and 70%.

Remember, high humidity can cost frostbite on your chickens’ combs. The condition also makes your birds vulnerable to respiratory diseases.

So, to ensure that the humidity in your winter chicken coop is controlled, consider the following:

  1. Your birds’ coop has no leaking roof. The design shouldn’t allow for water, snow or rainwater to get in. It’s important that your coop is weatherproof
  2. Have adequate shavings if you plan on using the deep litter system. This will help balance the droppings without having to remove chickens droppings each day.
  3. If your chickens’ current bedding has straws or sawdust, consider replacing them with kiln-dried pine shavings for enhanced poop moisture absorption.
  4. If you anticipate winter temperatures to drop below freezing point, ensure your chicken coop bedding thickness is about 6 inches
  5. Ensure that snow does not accumulate in the chicken run. When left to build up, they’ll melt to create a muddy ground which can adversely affect your chicken coop’s humidity level.
  6. Your birds’ roof should have a special cover to protect your run from falling rains or snow
  7. If your chicken coop wall is wooden, paint it with low VOC latex paint. This is to ensure that the wood doesn’t absorb excess moisture inside your coop. Mold formations in or around your chicken coop will be reduced

Winter Chicken Coop # 7-Consider a Sun-room extension

When winter temperatures are very low, your chickens may find it hard to move out of the coop.

Building a sun-room extension like a greenhouse to your coop will provide them with an opportunity to freely enjoy the surrounding. The sun-room can be designed like a greenhouse to allow your birds to move freely.

The extension will provide them with plenty of space to get fresh air while still being protected from harsh weather elements like rain, snow, and cold winds.

Winter Chicken Coop # 8-Adopt Deep Litter System

As winter approaches it’s highly recommended that you consider practicing the deep litter system in your chicken coop. This will insulate your chicken against the cold while enhancing the management of your chicken wastes at the same time.

Plan to have pine shaving layers on your chicken coop’s floor during winter. During the cold season, you’ll not have to clean the birds’ accumulated droppings.

Instead, you’ll have to only turn the beddings using a rake and adding more shavings based on the prevailing moisture levels. Kiln-dried pine shavings are highly recommended.

It’s advisable that the pine shavings are spread at the bottom of your winter chicken coop, and straws at the top.

Please note that in the Deep Litter Method, the microbes in beddings are very beneficial. Therefore, DO NOT use DE insecticides inside your chicken coop

Winter Chicken Coop # 9- Provide Enough Space for Your Chickens to Roost

Chickens generally love to roost together to trap heat and remain warm. They’ll feel more secure if your chicken coop design has a raised floor so that they’re not in direct contact with the cold winter ground ( about 2 feet above the ground). They’ll feel both warm and secure.

Plan to have enough rooms in your coop to accommodate all your chickens. Take time to check on them in the evening to ensure they’ve adequate space and are comfortable on the raised floor.

Should you notice that the floor is full and many or a few chickens are forced to remain on the ground floor, make a plan to expand the roosts accordingly. Well, you also decide on culling the chickens that will not be productive during winter to create more space!

Winter Chicken Coop # 10- Plan for Access to Drinking Water, Food, & Nesting Boxes

Your chickens will still need fresh and clean water during the cold winter season. You must, therefore, design your winter chicken coop with a special waterer system for your birds to drink even at below-freezing temperatures.

Adequate space must be provided in the design to allow for your free access to their feeding places, waterers, and nesting boxes.

The nesting boxes should be effectively insulated with straw to stop eggs from freezing. If you’ve got many egg-laying birds, plan on suitable nest boxes and on how to hang them in the coop.

Ensuring that your chickens’ drinking water stays unfrozen under extremely low temperatures can be a challenge. Don’t worry. You can read more on ways to keep winter chicken coop water available for your birds even if the temperatures are below the freezing level.

Winter Chicken Coop # 11-Set up bathing dust tubs in the kitchen coop

Chicken love bathing in the dust. Why not keep them active, happy, and clean in winter? Set up a galvanized tab or any suitable sturdy tub with dust and dirt inside your chicken coop. The tub’s depth will deter dirt and dust from spreading to the coop as your birds clean up.

It should be wide enough to allow at least two hens to enjoy a bath at any given time.

Final Word

Winter season is a challenging period for many farmers including chicken farmers. Luckily, chickens can survive under very low temperatures including winter. If you plan ahead on winterizing your chicken coop design, there’ll be nothing to be worried about. Your ladies will survive happily and comfortably.

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Meshack Sewe

Meshack, is a tech-savvy Creative Copywriter, Poet, a Blogger, and a proud owner of few locally bred cows and goats. He first trained in Agricultural Engineering & later in Business Information Technology (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology). He has served both as Program Officer and Program Manager with two NGOs focusing on Agricultural & Humanitarian Programs targeting local communities.

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